Sun 30 Oct: The News of the World (NotW) runs a front page account, by Anvar Khan, of a visit to a sex club with an unnamed, married MSP.
Two members of the SSP Executive Committee (EC), aware that the article refers to Tommy Sheridan, ask him to apologise and resign as convenor as soon as he is named as the MSP involved. He refuses.
A further attempt is made to deal with the situation privately, with Tommy invited to attend an informal meeting on Sat 6 Nov. He refuses and an emergency EC meeting is called.
Tues 9 Nov: Tommy admits to the emergency EC meeting that he is the unnamed MSP, saying he attended the club twice, in 1996 and 2002. He adds that he has taken legal advice, and will continue to publicly deny the story as he is confident no proof exists. He leaves the meeting early. There is a unanimous vote not to comply with his strategy of denial, and a consensus is reached that he should be given until Sat 13 Nov to resign as party convenor.
Thurs 11 Nov: Tommy’s resignation is reported on Daily Record front page. Tommy is quoted as saying he intends to spend more time with family. Feverish media speculation follows.
Sun 14 Nov: The NotW prints additional allegations of an affair, to which Tommy had never admitted at the EC, and which were never considered by EC members in discussions regarding Tommy’s resignation. A second emergency EC unanimously agrees a statement, saying ‘…The Executive completely dismisses the rumours that have circulated in the press that Tommy’s resignation was provoked by a leadership challenge, a factional power struggle or any other form of internal in-fighting… We understand that recent allegations in a Murdoch newspaper may be the subject of a future libel action by Tommy Sheridan and consequently the Scottish Socialist Party does not wish to comment on matters concerning the allegation.’
Wed 24 Nov: A further emergency EC agrees and ratifies the minutes of the two previous meetings and unanimously agrees proposals regarding the forthcoming National Council (NC) meeting, including a verbal report on the reasons for Tommy’s resignation and an argument in favour of keeping the minutes of the three EC meetings confidential.
Sat 27 Nov: The Herald runs article headlined, ‘SSP leaders to face the party without crucial meeting’s minute’.
Emergency NC is attended by more than 100 party delegates. Allan Green’s verbal report is endorsed by Tommy Sheridan. A motion endorsing the EC’s decisions is passed by 85 votes to 20.
Tommy Sheridan issues a press statement saying, ‘I wholeheartedly support the SSP Executive Committee statement agreed at today’s meeting. The Scottish Socialist Party has today showed great maturity in reaching a unified position on the way forward.
‘I would like to take this opportunity to confirm that my resignation as party convenor has nothing at all to do with internal power struggles. There is not and never has been any internal squabbles or back-biting about a leadership challenge. We are a party of principle and action.
‘We have drawn a line under these internal deliberations. I will now work alongside the other party MSPs and the wider party membership to campaign for justice, equality, peace and socialism.’
Thurs 11 May: In connection with Tommy Sheridan’s libel case against the NotW, four SSP members are cited to appear in court in order to hand over documents relating to his resignation, including the minutes of the 9 November 2004 emergency EC.
Fri 12 May: Colin Fox and Allan Green meet with Tommy. Allan Green shows him the minutes and both ask him to withdraw his libel action, pledging to raise funds to help him with costs incurred so far. Tommy asks them to defy the court’s demand to hand in the minute.
Sun 14 May: An emergency EC agrees that Alan McCombes is to take sole possession of the minutes and refuse to hand them in to the court.
Tues 16 May: Alan McCombes goes to the Court of Session, where he explains, on the grounds that the party has the right to hold private discussions on confidential matters, that he is not prepared to release the minutes. He is warned he faces contempt of court charges.
Sun 21 May: A scheduled EC meeting endorses the decision to defy. It withdraws, in the interest of unity, a motion agreed previously calling on Tommy to drop his libel action.
Week beginning Mon 22 May: At the Court of Session, Judge Lady Smith announces her intention to call Tommy Sheridan and members of the Cardonald SSP branch to explain a resolution circulated on Tommy’s parliamentary email demanding that the EC minutes are destroyed.
At some point this week, a fake set of minutes are sent to the NotW, which include the initials of a number of EC members. Whoever sent them this fabricated document handed over the names of SSP members who would later be dragged before the court to testify.
Fri 26 May: Alan McCombes is jailed for 12 days by Lady Smith at the Court of Session. She says that Alan is ‘flouting the law. It is difficult to resist drawing the conclusion he puts his loyalty to the Scottish Socialist Party above his duty to this court.’
Sat 27 May: SSP offices in Glasgow and Edinburgh, and Alan’s home, are raided by Sheriff Officers, instructed by the court to search for the minutes. They don’t find them.
Sun 28 May: Emergency NC meets in Glasgow. While the meeting is in progress, Tommy Sheridan issues an ‘open letter’ to the press, where he alleges there is a conspiracy to undermine him by a ‘an unsavoury cabal of comrades… who are more interested in pursuing personal vendettas, through vile lies and slander, than conducting the class struggle.’ He had never raised these allegations formally within the SSP.
In a torrid, angry atmosphere, some speakers are bitterly harangued by hecklers. Tommy Sheridan speaks in favour of handing the minutes in to the court, and repeats some of the accusations from his open letter.
The meeting votes 82 to 67 in favour of ending the strategy of defiance. Without discussion, the NC is forced to vote on a motion offering Sheridan ‘our full political support in his battle’ against News International, which is passed by 81 votes to 60.
Mon 29 May: The minutes are handed in to the Court of Session in a sealed envelope, and Alan McCombes is released from Saughton Prison after four days in jail.
Sun 18 June: An EC meeting agrees that those SSP members now cited as witnesses in the libel action should go to court under protest but neither perjure themselves nor place themselves in contempt of court. Two EC members vote against this statement, but offer no alternative strategy.
Tues 4 July: Court case begins.
Fri 4 August: Tommy Sheridan wins his libel action, and is awarded £200,000. He immediately announces he will challenge Colin Fox for the SSP convenorship. He later states he will stand for the position if he can secure nominations from at least 25 branches.
Mon 7 August: As part of a series of exclusive, paid-for interviews with Tommy, the Daily Record’s front page headline reads, ‘I will destroy the scabs who tried to ruin me’. The inside pages run pictures of four SSP MSPs, with the word ‘scab’ printed over each.
Wed 16 August: In a statement released on the ‘SSP Majority’ website, Tommy Sheridan and Rosemary Byrne call a meeting to discuss a new party of the left in Scotland, declaring the SSP a ‘colossal train wreck’.
Sat 19 and Sun 20 August: In interviews with The Herald and Sunday Herald, Tommy says he regrets calling SSP members ‘scabs’, saying he should have saved the word for use in internal party meetings. Instead, he labels SSP members who gave evidence ‘collaborators’, and unambiguously states his intention to leave the SSP and start a new party.
Two platforms within the SSP – the CWI and SWP – announce their intention to leave the SSP and join Tommy’s new formation.